Monday, December 28, 2009

Social Networking and Brand Management

People who have known me for some time in real life or on the Internet know that I'm resistant to hop on the bandwagon whenever a new social networking fad hits. In fact, my wife has consistently harassed me by saying that I'll be the last human being to join Facebook. She and everyone else does not understand that I already spend far too much time reading the news (and the local newspapers hate me for it); posting on my favorite gaming website (www.teamwarfare.com); playing games; recording music; etc. I have no more free time in that I don't know what to do with myself, so anything new has to be added to the waiting list, prioritized, etc. Facebook would simply suck away so much time that all of the things I want to do now would suffer as a result.

So when I joined Twitter last week, it was equivalent to the Second Coming of Christ (my apologies if people consider that heresy) in terms of the surprise that people had when they saw me tweeting of all people. After all, Twitter is probably just as much a time hog as Facebook.

The difference between the two is in the value of the site. I could just as easily claim that LinkedIn is a time hog when you consider the time I would spend answering questions, sending messages to my network, etc. But any activity on LinkedIn is considered an investment since it yields a benefit for my career. Can the same be said of Twitter?

Absolutely. Recall the two part blog (part 1 and part 2) where I talked about things that could be done to ensure that you get the maximum benefit out of a professional networking site. In part 2, I specifically discussed how I use LinkedIn to ensure that my value as a professional is proselytized to the maximum amount possible. Twitter is an extension of these efforts since LinkedIn now has direct links to Twitter.

The difference between LinkedIn and Twitter is in how you use each site. Telling you what you already know, Twitter is great for publishing short statements about anything you want. Given the integration that many websites now have with Twitter, it's very easy to share an article on a relevant topic with your followers. Links to the article are frequently shortened (using a site like Ping.fm, Bit.ly, etc.) giving you as many characters as possible to put a short message.

Frequently, sites put a message (similar to the article's headline) there. But this is an opportunity for you to increase your value in the eyes of those that follow you. Accept the headline? No way. Put your own spin on things, and if you can provoke some thought before they click on that link then you will be perceived as having value in their eyes.

(A secondary benefit, more for someone who is going senile like I am, is that when you are ready to write your blog entry for the next week then you have a week's worth of things that you found interesting documented in your list of tweets over the prior 7 days. I definitely plan on taking advantage of this in the future. But I digress...)

So if you haven't yet embraced Twitter, "there's gold in them thar hills." And if you want to hear my thoughts on relevant topics, feel free to follow me @foolomon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

P-cubed

This week's exciting news is that - ta-da! - I have received and accepted an offer at a Fortune 1000 software company selling IT Security solutions. After I received the formal offer, I was reminiscing on the journey to get to this point and decided to share some of these thoughts.

In any business endeavor, whether short- or long-term, it is foolhardy to "just do it" without any forethought regarding the consequences. From personal experience, I have had a few times in my life where I've said or done things and then (sometimes immediately) wished that life had a Backspace key or that I could somehow press Control-Z (Command-Z for you Macheads) to undo what just occurred. Therefore, if you are going to set your mind to accomplishing a particular goal, you should keep the following three things foremost in your thoughts:

Planning. Planning is a necessity regardless of the importance of the task, and I wrote about this in Be Your Own CEO of the Decade (November 23, 2009). Without planning, you won't have given any thought to what can go wrong; what to do if something does go wrong; how to maximize a successful result; etc.

Persistence. It's very easy to get frustrated when things don't go according to schedule. In fact, frequently things will not go according to plan. (Forget worrying about a schedule!) Yet as long as your execution is salvageable you should still carry on until you've reached an end point, successful or otherwise.

Patience. If you are doing something that provides instant results and/or feedback then you are fortunate. However, there may be times when all of your efforts will not yield a tangible harvest until some time in the future. Just because you've planned and executed does not mean that there is not still some work, or at the very least oversight, that needs to be done.

Applying these three principles to my job search over the past 7 months, my plan was to ensure that I was successfully selling myself when people either read my LinkedIn profile or my resume and then to successfully promote my personal brand by blanketing to the greatest extent possible the entire LinkedIn site with reminders of my existence. (Think of that last statement like a bunch of prairie dogs that keep popping their heads up out of their holes. Whack-a-Me? No way!)

After I had a plan, my persistence was tested when, month after month, things got more dismal. I still believed I could get a job that I wanted and not just a new source of income, but with 127 resumes sent out in two months and only 5 replies it wasn't looking good. My wife kept telling me how her father, in a similar situation, took a job at Home Depot stocking shelves and the guilt of thinking how I wasn't providing for my family like her father did for hers certainly shook me to the core at times. Yet I did not abandon my goal, and I carried on.

I've been talking to my new employer since the end of August. In the third week of September, the head of the Sales team for this division and geographic region said to my new manager that he was satisfied and that my manager could proceed to negotiate an offer. Yet my new manager wanted more things to be done and checked before moving to the final stages of the interview cycle. It is the end of the year and other people at this company are busy closing deals and such, so expecting them to find time to speak with someone they've never heard of before is difficult at best. Patience? Jokingly, I'll say that I should be beatified. It finally took an additional 3 months for me to get the offer. Had I no patience, I would have been looking elsewhere; would not have continued to follow-up with them; and who knows what my employment or financial situation would be right now?

I've applied those principles to the experiences of my job search, but I am sure you can find other business situations where they are equally applicable. Let these be your guideposts to success in all that you do.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Peace and Goodwill

This is the wonderful time of the year when you get your Year in Review edition of Time in the mail and read similar nostalgic pieces around the web. Personally, I think it's a cop-out on the parts of editors and authors because this seems to be a "softball" that the calendar gives them. However, it's not politically correct to have a Scrooge-ish attitude, so in the spirit of the holiday season I bring you this week's blog entry.

When I was a lad, my parents had on their bookshelf a book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The cover looked boring, and I was only 9 so the outdoors were calling a lot more than reading some unknown book with a stodgy cover. Over the years, I heard now and again how this book was the definitive source on the topic and even recently learned that many considered it a "must read" for salespeople.

So while I was in Manhattan last week, I stopped by a Barnes and Noble. I was intending on buying The One Minute Manager, an excellent book that I used to own but since misplaced. But after I looked at the book, the name of Dale Carnegie floated across my conscience. I left with his book instead with a pep in my step, for I was finally going to satisfy my curiosity that had been fanned over the years by all of those people that recommended it so highly.

Realize that the book was written in 1936, so allusions to John D. Rockefeller and his ilk take on a special significance. I couldn't help but wonder, though, if the book was no longer relevant due to the fact that it is 70 years old.

I have read the first three chapters, and feel that the book is very timely indeed. In fact, I can see why so many people fawn over it. I asked on LinkedIn if I was alone, and resoundingly I heard that it was still a book for the ages and that it contained advice on how to manage one's relationships that will never go out of style.

This is the time to spread peace and goodwill, and this can easily start with the way we interact with our customers, peers, spouse, children, et al. Why not pick up a copy of the book that tells you how you can do this while making yourself a better person at the same time? You never know: maybe your success in managing relationships will translate into success in business much like the book tells.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Management 101

William Hammer, who is a good friend of mine as well as the founder of Vanderbilt Securities, once told me (paraphrased): "it's a Management 101 concept to stipulate a 'due date' whenever you need something to be done. Otherwise, there will be a lot of hemming and hawing, and you'll never get the information you need."

I couldn't agree with him more, but since he said this to me about 10 years ago I'll take it a step further: with the sheer number of hawkers vying for one's attention it's tough to stay focused. In fact, it's so tough that you cannot rely on someone to remember something they promised much less deliver it when you need it.

When I was a senior at Clemson University, I had already spent two, seven-month periods working as an intern at IBM's Application Systems Design Lab in Cary, NC. But I had set my sights on their T. J. Watson Research Center for my last seven-month stint before my graduation. My soon-to-be manager, Jerry Cuomo, wanted to fly me up for an interview but was unable to justify to his boss why they should do so since I was "just an intern."

In the end, he hired me for that internship. When asked for clarification, he said that it seemed that I would be a contributor and, more importantly, he liked my determination. (For the record, what he really was saying was that I was a pain in his ass during the decision process. But I digress...)

Determination can be annoying to others, but only when they don't properly appreciate the gravity of the situation. This was alluded to back in my first blog entry, Everyone is in Sales!, where I stated that the onus is on you to convince others of your cause. Beyond this, there is also the question of "what's in it for me?" or, put another way, "why should I help you?"

The point that I'm trying to make here is that your goals will rarely be unilaterally executed, i.e. you'll always need help from others. Those goals may be short term, tactical ones like liaising with another division in your company so that you can answer a customer's question; or they may be strategic ones like finding a new job that moves you along the career path that you've envisioned for yourself. To make these goals reality, then, it is important to remember the following things (summarized from above):

Sell your need. Properly convince others of the importance by ensuring they realize the benefits they'll receive from their efforts. It may be altruistic, i.e. "the company benefits" (vs. them benefiting personally), but that's okay too.

Set deadlines. Part of the "sales" aspect is explaining the due date for the action (unless the importance of the item in question is extremely low) and why that due date needs to be adhered to. This avoids the instance where someone will abdicate themselves from the responsibility of doing their part because "you didn't tell me you needed it yesterday!"

Be determined. I'm not condoning riding someone like a horse until they finish their part in the task, but you should definitely take an active interest in their progress. Be compassionate, though - they have other things that are demanding their attention.